Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Jerusalem Housing Crisis (and Pigeon Poo)

 Thanks to two quarrelsome cats, I was apartment hunting a few months earlier than I had anticipated.
I started cruising the Yad2 website again to see what kind of apartments were available in which neighborhoods for what price range. I was debating between finding an apartment and then looking for roommates who don’t mind cats and finding a room in an apartment where they don’t mind cats. I was also aiming for a place that was not too far from work or at least on one of the bus lines. The one and a quarter hour trip to work, via 2 buses and a train, was driving me crazy. Not to mention the unexpected road/tunnel/checkpoint closures that occur between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, and the daily traffic on the way to the central bus station within Jerusalem.
I contacted a few people to arrange to see available apartments in my price range, either 2 or 3 bedrooms. The first place I saw was a really nice apartment not far from Yad Sarah and Sha’arei Tzedek Hospital, a relatively easy journey to work. The family had made sure to let me know that due to the government earthquake proofing construction plan, there was a lot of construction going on in the area. What I didn’t realize until I got there to look around, was that the construction was going to be in the building. On the apartment. For 4 months. Which explained why the family was leaving. I decided however, that I want to live in a construction zone for 4 months as much as they want to live in a construction zone for 4 months and passed on the apartment. The visit wasn’t a total waste though since I got to pet their adorable Labrador.
The second apartment I went to visit was in Katamonim. The building itself appeared to be in the process of decomposition. Things were dripping from the walls outside and pieces were hanging off the sides (hopefully not important pieces). The woman who answered the door was the tenant who was moving out and had no idea who I was or why I was standing there. Apparently the landlord expected her to show me around but hadn’t informed her that I was coming. The apartment was in complete disarray, the entire floor and the remaining furniture were covered with what was obviously the contents of the furniture and all shelving units and cupboards. There was a pungent odor coming from the kitchen, from underneath a pile of heaped up garbage. She gestured to where the oven allegedly was but it too was hidden underneath piles of various and sundry household items.
The third place I looked at in Talpiot was being shown by a realtor. It was not advertised as such on the appropriate section of the real estate listings so I did not know this until the realtor replied to my message. I didn’t really know what this entailed although I assumed there would be some fee involved on my part if I wanted the place. After setting up a time to meet and then changing it 3 times, she arrived late to the apartment, and made me sign a bunch of documents before she even let me into the apartment. Which is good, because she couldn’t remember which apartment it was. There were three apartments on the floor; she tried opening two of them with the key she had and then gave up and called her coworker to ask which door it was. I had already figured out which apartment it was based on the process of elimination but her brain had not yet made that connection. When she finally did let me in, I was speechless. Why she thought anyone would be willing to pay an extra month’s rent as a realtor’s fee for an empty apartment inhabited only by pigeons, I can’t imagine. She showed me around a bit after she finished shrieking and waving her arms around at the pigeons. The place could most kindly be described as a dump. Missing toilet seats, sockets and wires hanging out of walls, a window in the living room looking out onto the pipes of the service shaft in the center of the building. The pigeon poo did not help matters. Obviously the owners had been unable to rent out the place themselves, so had decided to try to rent it out with the help of an air headed real estate agent. I had enough experience with old unrenovated Talpiot buildings in the past to know that I was not in the least interested. Waking up every morning and thanking G-d that your ceiling has not yet collapsed upon you as you slept is not a prayer anyone should have to say.
That was the last straw. This spiraled into a deep depression on the literally deteriorating state of apartments in Jerusalem for reasonable prices.
I decided to try my luck with people in already established apartments looking for roommates. My logic was this: a) If people are already living there, there must be a minimum of furniture in the apartment, at least enough for functionality; b) The apartment is probably at least somewhat livable, otherwise there would be no one living in it. This seemed like sound logic. And so I began the next stage of my research.
It turns out there are some 20 odd Facebook groups dedicated to helping people find apartments or roommates or sublets, etc. in Jerusalem. There are groups for apartments/roommates in Jerusalem in Hebrew, groups in English, groups for kosher apartments, groups for inexpensive apartments, groups for apartments in Rechavia, groups for apartments in Baka, groups for apartments in Rechavia/Baka, etc. A friend offered to add me to a few groups. Three minutes later I was a member of about 10 different Facebook groups. I quickly discovered that there are no groups for apartments looking for a roommate with a cat. This was obviously an oversight on someone’s part.
I posted on a few of the more relevant groups that I was looking for a kosher apartment, but that I also have a cat. I even uploaded a picture of Johnny, because who can resist that face?! The responses I got were either from people who already had a cat, or from people tagging a friend who already had a cat. I was forced to amend my original post with “Cat does not get along with other cats!” Unfortunately cats are not like children. You can’t put them in a room together and expect them to being playing peacefully with Legos when you come back. The most you can hope for is a relatively low bill for damages and no need for a vet visit.

I messaged a bunch of people with promising apartments and asked them how they felt about cats. The response was overwhelmingly negative. I started to take personal offense at people’s obviously misguided perceptions of felines. This spiraled into a deep depression on the deteriorating state of humanity.


  1. The picture that popped into mind of cats playing happily together with Legos was too funny. But seriously, how shocking - the discrimination against cats! What does it take to make cat-ophobia politically incorrect? I do hope you find the right place soon.

  2. Yikes! Eagerly awaiting the happy ending to the story.